Feeding year-round is best
Although winter feeding benefits birds most, food shortages can occur at any time of the year. By feeding the birds year round, you'll give them a better chance to survive the periods of food shortage whenever they may occur.
Feeding your garden birds not only benefits them, but can give you and your family hours of pleasure from watching them. A bird-feeding station can't provide all the natural proteins and vitamins that adult and young birds need, so it's important to create and manage your garden to provide a source of natural foods as well, through careful selection of plants and management of borders, hedges and areas left deliberately wild.
It is not just a case of piling a load of food out for the birds. Different species require different foods, and will feed in very different ways. Uneaten scraps on the lawn may attract unwanted rodents, and if the food is allowed to spoil then it could become harmful to the very birds you are trying to help. Keeping your feeders clean is extremely important. Also, a constant supply of clean water for bathing and drinking is essential.
Top-up twice a day in bad Weather
When the days are short, put out food and water on a regular basis. In severe weather, feed twice daily if you can as the birds only have 7-8 hours of daylight to gather all the food they need to create enough energy to survive the night. A regular feeding regime will encourage the birds to time their visit to your garden. In the winter it has been estimated by the BTO that a Blue Tit has to consume the equivalent of 10g of food a day to replace the energy used to survive, and when you consider an average Blue Tit only weighs 11g you can see what a struggle this is.
Best types of winter food
Birds require high energy (high fat) foods during the cold. You should use only good quality food and scraps.
Black sunflower seeds, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, mealworms, good seed mixtures are all good. Soft apples and pears cut in half, bananas and grapes are also enjoyed.One of the very best things you can do for your garden birds in the winter is to feed energy packed foods like suets and fats. The fat content helps keep your birds warm. Birds can loose a fair proportion of their body weight on cold nights and quick and easy access to a few well-stocked fat feeders can make the difference between life and death. All Wiggly Hi-Energy Feeds are made in the UK from top quality ingredients to ensure genuine value for money.
Peanuts should only be given in suitable mesh feeders that will not allow sizeable pieces of peanuts to be removed and provide a choking risk.
Fatballs are loved by many birds. The bought ones are best as they are less likely to fall apart. If you do make your own you should keep an eye on them to make sure they don't go rancid.
The most important 'food' of all is water. Birdbaths should have gently sloping sides and be sited at least away from any cover that might hide a prowling pussy. Check twice daily to make sure the water is not frozen. Do not add anything to the water (even salt) to try and prevent freezing. Some people place a ping-pong ball on the water and claim it helps stop freezing.
Sourcing you birdfood responsibly
Much of the birdseed sold in garden centres, supermarkets and via mail order is sourced abroad, some seeds from a considerable distance, and even from countries that have domestic human food shortages. Look out for birdseed that is grown locally and packed and handled by people that really know and care. That way, helping your garden birds will not be to the detriment of other environmental issues.
Feeding the right foods without wasting money.
It is a good idea to experiment with different food mixes. If you are getting a lot of one type of seed left, then adjust the mix to avoid waste. Be careful not to let spilled/waste food build up on the floor beneath you feeders. Chaffinches and perhaps Bramblings should help clear this up, but if they don't, you'll have to, before Mr Ratty and his friends find it!
Offering Livefoods (mealworms) in the winter is particularly good for insectivorous birds as they may be struggling to get worms etc. out of frozen ground. If you are persistent you may even be able to get Robins to take mealworms from your hand.
If you put out finely chopped kitchen scraps it is important to avoid anything salty as this could cause dehydration at a time when water might be difficult to find.
Mulching your pants with dead leaves in the late autumn will help keep some insects nearer the surface for the birds. Blackbirds can be heard noisily turning over the leaves to find a tasty morsel.
Provide roosting sites
As well as food good roosting sites for birds in winter are essential. Leave nest boxes and roosting pockets in place for the whole year and make sure you have some really dense hedging to allow the birds good night-time cover. Birds will use up to 10% of their body fat just to survive a night in the winter.
Don't forget your neighbours
Many of us spend much time looking after our garden birds in the winter, and at this time we should not forget any of our human neighbours who may be struggling, so just take a few minutes to check they're OK. Maybe give them a birdfeeder and then you'll have an excuse to call on them to top up their birdfood.
Pop on over to https://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/blogs/blog/tagged/wiggly-birdfeeding-month to view all our Wiggly Birdfeeding Month blogs as they are released!